From: Reuters
Published October 29, 2007 11:27 PM

Too many Halloween treats prompt health warnings

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - While adults may relish the gore of Halloween, most children enjoy the night for another reason -- the vast amount of candy they receive which is prompting warnings to parents.

With concern growing about rising childhood obesity rates, medical experts advised parents to limit how much candy they allow their children to eat.

"I don't think the indiscretion of a single day or a couple of days around Halloween would have any measurable impact on that child's health," said Dr Michael Kramer, a child health and development expert at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

But when the gluttony of Halloween stretches until the end of the year and beyond, it may be cause for concern.

If a child eats an extra 100 calories -- which does not seem like a lot -- every day for a year then it's 36,500 extra calories, which adds up, according to Kramer.

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"In a sense our society has prolonged the Halloween experience," said Dr. Diane Finegood, a nutrition and diabetes expert at the CIHR.

Americans are likely to spend over $5 billion on the holiday, with nearly three-quarters of the population spending an average $20 worth of candy to hand out, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation

What about the rest of the year?

"If you walk through a grocery store and look at the packaging of food intended for children, almost all of it really links the ideas of fun with food," she said in an interview.

"The food industry has recognized it can sell food by linking it to fun. That takes the concept of fun and food -- which Halloween did once a year -- to an everyday experience."

A recent report by the nonprofit Trust for Americas Health showed that the rate of childhood obesity more than tripled from 1980 to 2004. Approximately 25 million children are now either obese or overweight, it said.

Obesity increases a child's risk of developing type 2 diabetes -- a disease normally associated with adults.

Experts challenge parents to move away from just giving away candy at Halloween and to explore fun alternatives such as small toys.

"There are ideas out there for things to give away, things that are fun, but they don't eat," said Finegood.

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